Tue, Jun 03, 2008 - Page 20 News List

Nadal and Djokovic cruise to straight sets victories

AFP , PARIS

Triple champion Rafael Nadal racked up his 25th win in 25 Roland Garros matches as he joined third seeded Serb Novak Djokovic on a Sunday stroll into the French Open quarter-finals.

Nadal humbled fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, the 22nd seed, 6-1, 6-0, 6-2 and will now face Nicolas Almagro for a place in the semi-finals.

Australian Open champion Djokovic reached the quarter-finals for the third successive year thanks to a 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 win over French 18th seed Paul-Henri Mathieu.

He will face childhood friend Ernests Gulbis of Latvia after the 19-year-old ended the hopes of another Frenchman Michael Llodra 6-4, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 to reach his first ever Grand Slam quarter-final.

Djokovic praised his big serve which helped him save seven of the eight break points he saved against Mathieu.

“I served really well today and in the three previous matches here,” the Serb said. “It’s very encouraging for the rest of the tournament and for the future because I want to have it as a weapon.”

Djokovic broke Mathieu in the fifth game of the first set and then survived three break points in the 10th game to take the opener.

The world No. 3 was ahead with a break at 3-2 but Mathieu, encouraged by a 15,000 crowd, hit back only to surrender the advantage immediately to trail 4-3.

Mathieu, coached by former triple champion Mats Wilander, squandered four more break points in the eighth game and was broken again in the ninth to hand Djokovic a two-set lead.

The Serb wrapped up victory when Mathieu buried another running forehand into the net in the 10th game of the third set.

Gulbis, who trained with Djokovic when they were youngsters at the Munich academy owned by former Germany and Croatia Davis Cup captain Niki Pilic, had lost both his previous matches to Llodra, his senior by nine years.

“Michael is a tough opponent because he plays a strange kind of tennis. He serves and volleys and it’s tough to break him,” Gulbis said.

Almagro’s 7-6 (7/0), 7-6 (9/7), 7-5 win over French world No. 145 Jeremy Chardy allowed him to reach his first career Grand Slam quarter-final.

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